A cold shower would rid her from his mind. Or no, perhaps a vigorous swim in the Mediterranean. It was always a failsafe to eradicate unwanted stress.
With a growing determination, he set off to the penthouse to change.
Chloe squeezed a bit more ocean water from her hair as she walked back to the resort on the moonlit beach. She inhaled the salty air and shivered, the gentle breeze caressing her damp skin.
Her friends had protested her leaving so soon, but she’d explained having to wake up early to be at work in the morning. To which they’d bemoaned what a tyrant Estella Martinez was. They were always quick to point out how the resort used to be a wonderful place to work until she took over managing it. And from everything Chloe had seen about the woman, she could well believe it.
Smothering a yawn, Chloe winced at the thought of another long day tomorrow.
The swim had been invigorating after her long shift, but she’d skipped the alcohol the rest of the group had been indulging in. She rarely drank, and Chloe knew if she’d taken a sip of the sangria she’d just grow more tired. And her mind was still fuzzy from that sensual moment earlier with the handsome stranger.
Who was he? She bit her lip, trying not to think about the kiss and just how much it had stirred her.
She was nearly back to the path to the hotel when she realized someone seemed really close behind her. She cast a quick glance over her shoulder to investigate and her pulse jumped.
A man. Mostly in shadow. Biting her lip, she tried to increase her pace.
The hotel was closer now and was within view of the path up ahead. Chloe gathered the length of her sarong and started to run. Footsteps rushed behind her and she knew she was in trouble. Her heart slammed against her ribcage when a hand grabbed her arm; his painful grip spun her around.
“What’s your hurry, baby?” he asked, his voice slurred.
Chloe recognized the man immediately. He was one of the guests at the resort, an American. Oh, no. No, no, no.
“Let go of me,” she said forcefully, hoping her panic didn’t show through.
That policy Estella Martinez had instilled at the Diablo’s Paraíso resort, or the Devil’s Paradise, was catching up with her in a big, nasty way.
“I thought we could pick up where we left off this afternoon, when you were serving me drinks.” He pressed himself closer to her and the alcohol fumes from his breath nearly burned her nostrils. “Damn, but you’re a pretty one. You’re an American, too, aren’t you honey?”
She tried to jerk away, fear in her gut, but it was impossible.
Flirt with the guests. Make them feel important. Do whatever it takes to ensure they are satisfied, Estella had ordered. Flirting didn’t come naturally to Chloe, but she managed to force herself. And until now it had never posed a threat to her safety.
Her throat went tight with fear, her heart pounding a mile a minute. “Please, let me go. I’m not interested,” she protested, trying to free herself from his grip, searching around for someone on the beach who could help.
“You sure seemed interested this afternoon, baby.” He grinned and then grabbed her bottom.
“Stop it.” Panic hit full force and her voice rose.
She managed to pull free enough to stumble backward. Her relief was short-lived when her foot caught in her sarong and she went sprawling onto the sand. The man was on top of her in an instant, lips burying against her neck, hands tearing at her bikini top.
Chloe screamed full force, terror clogging the air in her throat while she fought to free herself. But she was no match for his drunken dead weight.
The weight of the man suddenly lifted, the smell of sweat and alcohol removed from her nostrils, and she sucked in a desperately needed breath.
She scurried backward in the sand, fearful he would grab her again, but then she looked up and gave a sob of relief.
Andrés let out a snarl of rage as he gripped the American’s shirt, lifting the man off the ground. He drew back his fist and smashed it into the man’s face. His snapped back and he gave a groan of pain.
“Leave before I kill you,” he muttered savagely, thrusting him to the ground.
The man stumbled to his feet, gripping his jaw, but fearfully ran in the opposite direction.
Andrés turned to find Chloe, his throat tight with fury and regret. She cowered just yards away, arms wrapped around her legs and her head lowered on top of her knees.
“You are safe now, cariño.” He knelt down beside her and lifted her chin. Her eyes brimmed with tears of shock and fear. Muttering a soft curse, he scooped her up into his arms.
“Please,” she whispered, shaking her head. “I’m fine. I can walk back myself.”
“Basta. Enough,” he said fiercely and lifted her petite frame higher against his chest.
He managed to grab her backpack before carrying her toward the resort.
Still, her body trembled and tears spilled down her cheeks. She’d been lucky he’d been swimming nearby and had heard her screams. To think of what could have happened… When he’d seen Chloe pinned beneath the bastard, heard her cry of terror, he’d snapped. Never before had he experienced such rage, nor had he wanted to snap a man’s neck more than in that moment.
A growl sounded low in his throat, and Chloe stiffened in his arms. With a silent curse, he forced himself to relax, to ease the fury from his face. The last thing he needed was to frighten her any more than she already was. Chloe rested lightly in his arms, and when she stared up at him through damp long eyelashes she looked achingly vulnerable. Entirely too beautiful.
Some of the anger faded. Desire stirred in his loins and he shook his head in disbelief. How could he be having such thoughts when she was obviously traumatized?
He needed to take her somewhere private. Have her sit down for a moment and take a sip of brandy to calm her nerves. His thoughts turned to the cabana on the resort’s property. It was near the beach and had been set aside for his own personal use, but he had yet to take advantage of it. Damn, did he even remember the code to enter it?
Once outside the cabana though, he was able to recall the password and soon had them inside the small room.
“Where are we?” she asked, scrubbing the tears off her cheeks.
“Somewhere safe,” he assured her, and set her still-trembling body down on the bed in the middle of the room. “Just try to relax for a moment.” He moved to the mini bar and found what he was looking for. Pouring a bit of brandy into a glass, he returned to the bed, where she sat unmoved. “Drink,” he commanded softly.
She shook her head. “I-I don’t drink that stuff.”
“Tonight you do.” He lifted the glass to her mouth, knowing once the drink hit her stomach she’d relax a bit. Calm down. “You have had a shock, Chloe. It will settle your nerves.”
Chloe met his gaze, saw the gentle determination there, and then parted her lips, letting him tilt the glass of amber liquid into her mouth. The fiery drink slid down her throat, burning just a little, but sliding warmth in its path. She swallowed all the contents in the glass and then pushed it away.
Her heart had yet to slow from that terrifying moment on the beach. What had almost happened…what could have happened if this man hadn’t come along.
Who was he? This man who’d kissed her in the moonlight and then rescued her just hours later.
“I don’t even know your name,” she whispered, handing him back the glass.
He accepted the glass, his eyes darkening. “Andrés.”
“Andrés,” she repeated shyly, testing the name on her tongue. The name was just as mesmerizing as the man who stood gazing down at her.
There was something in his stare that had the hairs on the back of her neck lifting. A small tremble shook her body, but this time it had nothing to do with fear.
Dragging her attention from him, Chloe looked around the room, frowning. Where were they? Everything was a bit of blur from the moment he’d rescued her. After the attack, the fear had continued to be debilitating, even after Andrés had lifted her into his arms. But being held against his chest, hearing the steadying thump of his heart, had eased the terror a little.
But how had she not noticed where he’d taken her? Wherever they were, it seemed to be some kind of private cabana. The square wooden building held a bed in the center, a round table for two, and a mini bar in the corner.
“Can you tell me what happened on the beach?” he asked softly.
Her nerves had settled a bit from the brandy, but the question sent an icy wave through her. She closed her eyes and recalled the attacker’s hands on her. Smelt the stench of alcohol and stale sweat.
“I…can’t,” she choked out. “Please, I don’t want to relive it right now.”
The mattress dipped, and then his strong arms closed around her again. “Of course. I was insensitive to ask, cariño.” He pressed her head to his chest and stroked her hair, continuing to murmur something soothing in Spanish that she was too tired to try and translate.